Seven members schools of the Big East conference that do not field an FBS-level football program voted unanimously to pull away from the crumbling conference Saturday.
Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in September Notre Dame would explore options to leave the Big East before the 27-month waiting period ends.
The presidents of the seven schools — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova — released a statement Saturday afternoon that outline their intent to "pursue an orderly evolution to a foundation of basketball schools that honors the history and tradition on which the Big East was established." Their decision could mean an earlier jump from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference for Notre Dame.
Irish basketball coach Mike Brey said earlier this week that Notre Dame could jump to the ACC as early as next season if the those universities went ahead with their plans to secede. In September, Notre Dame finalized a deal that would put all its sports except for football and hockey in the ACC.
The conference requires 27 months notice for exiting universities, which would have kept the Irish under the Big East banner until 2015. Syracuse and Pittsburgh made a similar jump and paid a fee to waive the extended waiting period. They will begin playing in the ACC at the start of the next school year.
Notre Dame now has more incentive to join them and a stronger case to broker a reasonable exit fee.
The Big East released a statement Saturday afternoon from commissioner Mike Aresco that said they plan to continue to move forward with the 13 other member schools.
"The basketball institutions have notified us that they plan to withdraw from the BIG EAST Conference," the statement said. "The membership recognizes their contributions over the long distinguished history of the BIG EAST. The 13 members of the conference are confident and united regarding our collective future. We have a strong conference with respected national universities, and are working together to forge the future. We have a variety of options, and are looking forward with great partnership, collegiality and optimism.”
Their statement came shortly after the presidents of the seven basketball schools announced the following:
"Under the current context of conference realignment, we believe pursuing a new basketball framework that builds on this tradition of excellence and competition is the best way forward.
“We are grateful to our commissioner, Michael Aresco, for his exceptional leadership of the Big East Conference. We have been honored to be associated with the outstanding group of institutions that have made up the Big East. While we pursue this opportunity for our institutions, we believe the efforts of the past two years have established the foundation for an enduring national football conference.
“We look forward to building this new foundation with an emphasis on elite competition and a commitment to the development of our students engaged in intercollegiate athletics. That is where we will now spend our energy as we move forward.